By JAMES TABABA
Using live fences, or using live plants to serve as fences, are a time-honored tradition in the Philippines. These living barricades not only define property lines but also serve as windbreaks and even sources of sustenance for generations. To truly harness the benefits of live fences, it’s essential to understand what makes a good one. A good live fence should feature plants with vigorous growth, resilience to local conditions and pests, aesthetic appeal, additional benefits like edibility or medicinal value, low maintenance requirements, and the ability to support biodiversity. Here are examples of indigenous live fences traditionally utilized here in the Philippines.
Bamboo is known for its rapid growth and resilience, making it an ideal plant for live fences. In the Philippines, where the climate is favorable for bamboo growth, it can reach maturity in just a few years. This fast growth allows for the quick establishment of effective barriers, providing privacy and security for properties.
Apart from its use as a live fence, bamboo is a versatile plant that can be used for construction, furniture, handicrafts, and even as a food source. In the Philippines, bamboo is commonly used to build houses, bridges, and furniture due to its strength, durability, and aesthetic appeal.
Kakawate, also known as Madre de Cacao, is considered a good live fence because of its ability to form a dense barrier. The plant grows rapidly, producing thick foliage and branches that effectively block unwanted intruders and provide privacy for properties. Its dense growth also acts as a windbreak, reducing the impact of strong winds and protecting the surrounding area.
In addition to its function as a live fence, kakawate has the ability to fix nitrogen in the soil. Kakawate is a leguminous plant, meaning it forms a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. This process enriches the soil with nitrogen, which is essential for plant growth. As a result, kakawate can improve soil fertility and contribute to sustainable agriculture practices. Moreover, kakawate contains various compounds with anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties.
Ipil-ipil can be easily propagated through cuttings, making it an accessible and cost-effective option for live fences. This characteristic is particularly beneficial for farmers and landowners, as it provides them with a sustainable and renewable source of fencing material. Ipil-ipil has the ability to establish itself quickly, forming a dense and effective barrier. The wood of ipil-ipil is also valued for its durability and is used in construction, furniture making, and as a source of firewood.
Katmon is considered a good live fence because of its dense growth and thick foliage. The plant can grow up to 20 meters in height, forming a robust barrier, and its thick leaves provide excellent privacy and security.
Katmon is a low-maintenance plant that can thrive in different soil conditions and climate zones. It is adaptable and can tolerate both sun and shade, making it suitable for various regions in the Philippines. The fruit of the katmon tree is edible and has a sour taste. It is often used in traditional Filipino cuisine as a flavoring ingredient in dishes such as sinigang or as a condiment for sauces.
Malunggay is a sustainable crop. It requires minimal water and can thrive in various soil conditions, including poor and sandy soils. The plant is known for its rapid development, allowing it to establish a live fence quickly. The plant has abundant leaves that form a thick and compact barrier.
The leaves of malunggay are highly nutritious, and rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They are commonly consumed as a vegetable and are known to have various health benefits, such as boosting immunity and improving digestion. Additionally, malunggay is also a nitrogen-fixing plant, which means it enriches the soil with nitrogen, improving its fertility and benefiting neighboring plants.
Indigenous crops used as live fences in the Philippines not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of the landscape but also encourage environmental conservation and sustainable agriculture. Consider these green alternatives when planning your next landscaping project or seeking sustainable agricultural alternatives to regular fences.